Posts Tagged ‘German shorthaired pointers’
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Based upon a completely unscientific poll of my friends, family and co-workers, I’ve come to the conclusion most folks wrap a little something under the Fraser fir for their bird dog. Truth be told, my wife already has some fancy doggy biscuits and chew toy pheasants stuffed into our two shorthair’s stockings. Yes, both of our GSPs have stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel.
However, after my recent run of hunting outings involving dog accidents, I’d like to offer a more practical, and potentially life-saving, Christmas idea for you and your bird dog- a sporting dog first aid kit.
Consider, during my last three hunting excursions I’ve been in the company of three separate dog injuries. First, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s shorthair was poked in the eye with a branch during a ruffed grouse hunt that broke off and left a two inch segment inside the pup’s eye cavity resulting in my first trip to the vet for the week.
The very next day, Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I were pheasant hunting when his fabulous Brittany sliced a massive gash in her paw on some remnant barbed wire bordering a Minnesota WMA. The second vet visit. By the way, vets don’t offer frequent visit punch cards. I asked.
And five days later, Kucharski’s shorthair attempted to eat a dead porcupine to the dismay of her owner. A half hour later, we’d removed two dozen quills. Somehow, I’d miraculously avoided the vet visit hat trick.
Add my recent string of bad bird dog juju to my young shorthair’s own porcupine encounter earlier this year and my older shorthair’s penchant for skunk sprayings, and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s inevitable for any dog owner to go through too many seasons without a bird dog medical emergency.
While the sporting dog first aid kit offered in the Pheasants Forever online store rings the cash register with rather a large $85 mark, I’ve found it’s virtually impossible to assemble this kit’s components individually under the sticker price. In the end, it’s a small investment on a critical piece of gear most of us believe we’ll never need, but wish like heck we had when an accident occurs.
NOTE: Items purchased through the Pheasants Forever online store by the end of Thursday, December 13th will be guaranteed arrival prior to Christmas.
Will your bird dog find something under your tree on Christmas morning?
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
I learned to bird hunt behind a Brittany. I don’t remember my dad ever teaching me how to “approach” a pointed bird, but it has always felt natural because it’s how I got my start. What’s interesting and more than a little humorous is watching my various hunting partners the last few years who have only hunted behind flushing breeds react to my German shorthair on point.
In almost every case, I’ve witnessed “human vapor lock” as these friends look at me with twitching eyebrows, tip toe with caution as they approach the dog, then stop behind the dog and look at me again. Are they waiting for the weasel to go pop? Honest to goodness, I’ve witnessed pure fear on the face of a fellow hunter.
“When a rooster flushes in front of my Lab it’s all instinct and excitement,” one friend explained last season. “With your darned pointer, it’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and you know Jason is around the corner with an axe.”
I’ve also been told by pointing dog purists to never walk up directly behind a pointer, but rather come in from the front or at an angle. The pointer purist worries about inadvertently causing “creeping” by approaching a dog from behind. “Creeping” being the unwanted broken point and creep forward of the dog toward the bird.
With this subject in mind, I called Purina’s “top dog” and pro trainer Bob West for his guidance on how best to approach a dog on point. “There is no clear cut, best way to approach a dog on point. You have to factor in the dog’s level of ability, the scenting conditions that day and the species of bird you anticipate being pointed to properly make the best approach for the situation,” explained West. “When hunting pheasants, it’s not uncommon for me to make a big 20 yard circled approach in front of a dog on point in an attempt to prevent a rooster from running.”
West went on to explain to me that he does believe young dogs could be caused to creep by approaching them from behind and an angled approach would be advised; however, he didn’t think a seasoned bird dog would be susceptible to the same problem. He stressed repeatedly in knowing your own dog’s tendencies and making the best decisions with your dog in mind rather than what some “expert” advised.
West did add that “perhaps more important than what angle to approach is the speed at which to make your approach. It’s critically important, especially with pheasants, to approach a dog on point at a pace as fast as safely possible. That bird isn’t going to hold all day and the conditions of the scent and scenario are also constantly changing for your dog.”
Lastly, West reminded me that the bird isn’t necessarily where the dog is looking. “It’s important to be ready the entire time you approach a pointed dog and be alert in all directions. The bird may be exactly where the dog is looking, but it oftentimes is not. Where the dog is looking simply is where that dog picked up the scent to lock into a point. That dog has been trained not to move any closer than the moment the scent reached a level to cause the dog to freeze. Its eyes should have nothing to do with it.”
To learn more about the pointing instinct and a variety of dog training questions, tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Thursday evening at 7:45PM (CDT) as Bob West joins the show for a live interview with me and host “The Captain” Billy Hildebrand. FAN Outdoors airs live on 100.3 FM in Minnesota and can be streamed live across the globe at www.KFAN.com.
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Steve Ries, owner of Top Gun Kennels, may have stumbled upon a new business model for his German shorthaired pointer kennel business: incorporating marriage proposals with puppy pickups. For at least one customer, that was the business arrangement last Saturday.
When Brandon Berg of West Concord, Minnesota visited Top Gun Kennels in Iowa this spring and put a deposit down on a GSP puppy, he told Ries the puppy was part of a surprise for his girlfriend. Yes, only part of the surprise. You see, Brandon was also in the process of designing a one-of-a-kind engagement band for Shay Jurgensen of Kasson, Minnesota.
“Shay loves German shorthairs and I wanted to make the perfect proposal very special and unique to her,” explained Berg. “After I told Steve my idea, he was all-in and excited to give me advice on how to best pull my plan off.”
So with Brandon’s plan in place, the couple road-tripped from southern Minnesota to Iowa last Saturday to “look at” Top Gun Kennel puppies. Shay had no idea what lay in store for her.
“Steve handed me the pup I had picked out earlier this spring. Around the pup’s neck was the collar I had given him with the engagement ring I designed attached,” explained Berg. “When I handed Shay the puppy, I dropped to one knee. With puppy in her arms and Shay’s eyes fixed on the ring, the tears began to roll pretty quickly down her face.”
The happy couple named the new pup, “Remington,” and plans to hunt pheasants, ducks and geese over him this autumn. Most bird dog owners will tell you that there is one dog that stands out as their “dog of a lifetime.” I’m confident Remington will be exactly that dog for Shay and Brandon. No word yet on Remington’s role in the wedding ceremony, but I’m placing the smart money on the position of ring-bearer.
Tune in to FAN Outdoors radio this Saturday morning at 7:30AM CDT to hear Steve Ries tell the story in his own words.
NOTE: In a twist of serendipity, Remington happens to be from the exact same litter as my new shorthair pup, “Izzy.”
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
As I embarked on the adventure of adding a second bird dog to my family, an age-old question hung in my mind: “Do puppies learn from older dogs or are they simply clay in the hands of a human trainer?”
For years, I’d heard opinions on both sides of this argument, but having never owned more than one dog at a time, I found it hard to pick a side to believe in this debate. However, after just a few days of owning two bird dogs, I have formed a very strong opinion that puppies ABSOLUTELY mimic older dog’s mannerisms, actions and behaviors. There is zero doubt in my mind that my 5-year old shorthair is constantly “training” my 12-week old GSP puppy.
I’ve watched Tram (the 5-year old) pick up a stick during a walk. Moments later, Izzy (the 12-week old) was carrying a stick of her own. When running a field together, Izzy measures the distance Tram works away from me and stays at a similar distance. Every cue Tram drops, Izzy mimics.
Recognizing my sample size in formulating this opinion was extremely small, I asked renowned dog trainer and Purina pro-staffer Rick Smith for his opinion in the debate during a FAN Outdoors radio interview. You can Podcast the interview by following this link; listen for my question on the topic at the 19:12 mark of Hour 1 of the program originally airing on May 26th.
Without hesitation Smith confirmed my quick-formed opinion that young dogs learn a lot more from older dogs than from people. “I like having a young dog with an older dog,” added Smith.
The caveat Smith made special point of noting, however, was to keep in mind that young dogs are going to learn good AND bad habits from your older dog. That hit home with me as well. Izzy is now a dinner table beggar thanks to Trammell’s habits (obviously my fault to begin with), and Izzy also enjoys sleeping on the couch as opposed to the floor (guilty as charged).
This entire sequence of observations has me even more eager than normal for bird hunting season to see how much Izzy mimics Tram’s hunting expertise. Izzy has already honored Tram’s point of a mallard pair, so I’m hopeful that’s a sign of things to come . . . yes, I realize there won’t be much need for either of my duck pointers. Laugh it up!
So, for all those multi-dog owners out there, how much have your younger pups learned from your older bird dogs? Any special advice you’d offer me in this two-dog process?
Monday, May 14th, 2012
Bird dog names are a big deal to me. Admittedly, they’re probably too big of a deal. However, as I’ve written about in previous posts about dog names, a bird dog’s name says a lot about the owner as well as what you hope the bird dog will become. In naming a bird dog, there are two qualities I hold as important guidelines: creativity and personalization.
Although you may not realize it at first blush, a creatively named dog is an advantage in the field. I’ve often been in hunting groups with multiple dogs named the exact same way. Not only are the owner’s commands confusing for the dogs, they’re confusing for the other hunters too. Under this guideline, I personally throw out the nation’s most popular dog names as well as a few names commonly popular to other bird hunters. The names “Drake” and “Hunter” fall in this second category, as does any name referencing your favorite brand of shotgun.
If you’re struggling to find a creative name, consider a different language to fit the breed of dog you’re getting. There are lots of fun ways to connect a dog’s German, French, Spanish, English or Irish heritage through their name.
For me, a bird dog’s name should tell a story about the owner. Read some of the comments at the bottom of my Please Don’t Name Your Bird Dog That post and you’ll find fantastic examples of dog names in honor of people’s heroes, favorite book characters and idolized musicians, as well as fun stories of the circumstances surrounding the dog’s personality.
Admittedly odd for some to understand, I named my now five-year old female shorthair “Trammell,” in honor of a male Detroit Tigers baseball player, Alan Trammell, who retired two decades ago. However, naming my pup “Trammell” immediately personalized that pup to me. Her name has also always served as a conversation starter about my love of baseball and my roots as a grouse hunter from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Later this month, my wife and I will be adding our second bird dog to the family. The new pup comes from the same Top Gun Kennel bloodlines as Trammell. In the sequel to this post, I’ll finally spill the beans on our new pup’s name. Got any guesses?
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
We’ve probably all heard the sayings about owners and their dogs looking alike, but what about shared mannerisms? I’ll venture our bird dogs mimic their hunting masters in a variety of ways. Here’s a sample of the similarities and adaptions I believe my shorthair, Trammell, and I share.
- Methodically Short and Deliberately Dainty. I am not the tallest guy in the room, any room, even an 8th grade classroom. At 5’ 7”, my short legs work harder than most to cover the fields and forests. Thankfully, my shorthair works slower and more methodical than other pointers I’ve observed. Amongst my Pheasants Forever co-workers, Trammell is referred to as a “dainty” hunter. To some guys, those may be fighting words, but I’m pretty sure Tram and I bag more roosters than those China Shop Bulls. We may not vacuum up big expanses of ground, but I’m relatively certain we don’t run over too many hunkered birds either.
- Hunting Marathoners. While Tram and I may not beat many tag teams to their daily limit, our deliberate pace does allow us to hunt from the day’s sunrise to the day’s closing bell.
- Cattail Skirters. Unless one of us gets “birdy,” we’re both content to work the outside edge of the cattail sloughs and keep our feet dry.
- Rain, Rain, Go Away. Speaking of dry feet, Tram and I both avoid being outside on rainy days. It’s funny to watch Tram go outside for a potty break in the rain, she tip toes into the yard as if she’s literally melting and zooms back inside the minute her “business” is complete. Likewise, I’ve been quoted as saying “this isn’t fun for me anymore,” during a rainy hunt.
- No Water Wings. While I love to eat ducks, I’d rather spend my time and energy walking in pursuit of any bird without webbed feet. Tram has a similar aversion to spending her hunting hours stuck in the mud over plastic fake birds when the real thing is to be had one step in front of the other.
- Favorite Color is Orange. Hunter orange and Detroit Tigers orange compose our wardrobe’s two seasons.
- Birdy Buddies. Probably most important of all is our shared affinity for upland birds; including, pheasants, quail, grouse, woodcock, sharpies, and prairie chickens.
What about you? What traits do you and your bird dog share?
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Successful poker players often talk about identifying opposing player’s “tells” in route to victory. Some card players can’t look others in the eye when they’ve got a good hand, or they start tapping their fingers on the table when they’re bluffing. Baseball pitchers are known to have similar “tells.” I can remember one pitcher from high school who would only grunt when delivering a curve ball. Fastball = no grunt. Curve = grunt. I hit pretty well off that guy.
I believe a parallel can be drawn between successful hunter and dog teams. Without the ability to talk, the hunter is left to interpret the pup’s body language in the field to determine what that dog’s nose is communicating to the rest of its body. Most of us refer to this interchange of scent to body language as a dog getting “birdy.”
While there are common traits consistent across bird dogs, I believe each birdy dog’s tells are as unique as batting stances in the Hall of Fame. In my opinion, the basic birdy dog indicators are a pup’s tail, ears, eyes and pace. The key to being a successful hunter over your bird dog is honing in on how your dog’s tail, ears, eyes and pace behave when your pup’s hot after a bird.
My shorthair has a couple of surefire tells. The biggest indicator for me is the pace at which her tail wags left to right. The faster it goes, the surer she is to be on a bird’s trail. Contrastingly, as soon as she believes she’s located it, her tail and the rest of her body goes “rock solid” into a point and her ears are pricked at attention. In essence, the more statuesque she is, the more certain she has the bird pinned in the cover somewhere in front of her nose. As long as I’m not behind her, she’ll also make eye contact with me; making sure I see her and know she’s got one located. While I don’t know if pro dog trainers would encourage or discourage this eye contact, I absolutely get a rush out of the interchange. To me, it galvanizes the passing of the baton from her job to mine as the shooter.
While Trammell’s tail and eye contact tells aren’t unique to her, she does have another tell that I’ve yet to witness in anyone else’s bird dog. When Tram is hot on the trail of a running rooster, but she simply can’t locate it after an extended chase, she’ll let out a whine. When I hear that whine, I pick up the pace as fast as I safely can with shotgun in hand, because based on past experience that whine tells me she’s on the scent of a wily old rooster that is going to flush before he ever lets her get close on a point.
When it comes to pace as a tell, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s Lab, Lucy, provides my best example. There is no doubt a dog’s chasing speed picks up as it zeros in on a rooster. Matt’s Lucy is no exception. As the scent grows in intensity, so does Lucy’s horse power, until Lucy finally zeros in on a rooster pinned under grass. At that point, Lucy stops, looks up to locate Matt, and then immediately pounces on the clump of grass concealing the bird.
What is your dog’s surefire “tell” when on a bird?
Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Last week, fellow PF co-worker Rehan Nana sent me the link to a website called Doggelganger. Are you familiar with the term “doppelganger?” In short, the word’s definition is “a look-alike.” Consequently, the dog version of the definition would be a dog that looks like its human counterpart.
The creative folks behind the Doggelganger website instruct you to upload a photo of yourself, which is then scanned for your unique features, followed by a run through their database of homeless dogs available for adoption “matching up” to your physical appearance. The website is promoted as “Human to Canine Software Pairing.” Complete with fun graphics and a voiceover fitting “Final Fantasy,” Doggelganger is an entertaining two-minute brain break.
There was a time when folks thought I looked like Mike Myers’ doppelganger, but I’ve never been mistaken for my German shorthaired pointer. Perhaps that’s because Doggelganger says I look more like a beagle. While I’ve heard of beagles being used to hunt pheasants before, I don’t think I’m going to be making a switch any time soon.
What about you, does your favorite breed of bird dog match up as your Doggelganger?
Sunday, June 12th, 2011
I am an admitted pointing dog fanatic. In my biased eyes, the pointing instinct is both fascinating and beautiful. I am also a horribly average wingshooter, and admit the help of a pointer’s cue has added dozens of extra breast fillets into my skillet.
However, pointer ownership isn’t always high art and rock solid points on cornered birds. Last weekend, my German shorthair locked up on a pair of sandhill cranes at 100 yards (don’t worry, no cranes or crane nests were disturbed). If you’ve never owned a pointer, my pup’s point of cranes may strike you as a bit odd. Your skepticism will likely deepen as I also admit that my pup, at 8 weeks of age, also pointed a small boy exiting a minivan. She has also pointed numerous mammals; including, coyotes, skunks, porcupines and deer. And if you’re not doubtful of Trammell’s hunting abilities yet, then I’ll admit to her point of a painted turtle in the middle of the Fort Pierre National Grasslands last September. While I have no idea what that turtle was doing in the middle of the prairie, I also have no idea what scent triggered my pup’s pointing instinct.
Thankfully, Trammell’s pointing instinct has been successfully honed to target pheasants, quail, ruffed grouse, sharpies, woodcock, and Huns in more consistent patterns than painted turtles.
Today, consider this blog the pointer’s confessional. What is the oddest thing your pointer has ever locked up on? Come on and be honest. I know you tell your buddies that your pup only points roosters and doesn’t even bother with hens, but I don’t believe you. What’s your pointer’s painted turtle point?
Friday, March 25th, 2011
The lunchtime conversation at the office yesterday centered upon bird dog gender preferences. In a group of five bird dog owners, there were five Labs, two English setters and a German Shorthaired Pointer represented. Of those eight dogs, the male-to-female ratio was even at four per side. The sixth person in the conversation was going to pick out a new Lab pup this coming weekend and was trying to settle a family schism revolving around the very topic of picking between a male and female bird dog.
We discussed generalities associated with each gender of bird dogs. Males are often larger than females, for instance. However, a lot of gender preference seems to originate with “what I’ve always had.” That’s true in my case with female bird dogs. If I consider my preference through an unbiased lens, it’s pretty easy to argue my slant toward females is entirely grounded in the traits of individual dogs rather than in their gender.
The best argument made for females, in my opinion, is that males take a long time to pee; “they always have to mark their territory and it takes them forever every bathroom break!”
So today’s “Battle Royale” is an ole fashioned Boys vs. Girls grudge match.
Which gender do you prefer in bird dogs and why?
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.